Amari Palm Reef Koh Samui – A Review By Punam Mohandas
The Amari Palm Reef at Samui is located on Chaweng beach, a quick walk from the popular night spots but at a distance enough to guarantee one some peace and seclusion during one’s stay. As almost everybody knows, Chaweng is acknowledged as the party beach on the island.
The 188-key property is divided into two wings. The unusual factor is that the main road actually runs between the two halves. Each wing has its own swimming pool; the pool in the Garden wing is much quieter and no pool toys or games are allowed here.
The Garden wing offers serene vistas of manicured lawns. There are mainly family style rooms here, such as the Family Duplex that are individual Thai pavilions, with a double bed downstairs and twin beds at floor level upstairs. The décor is simple, with wooden floors and rust coloured settee, but the overall impression is a remarkably cosy set-up. Not all the rooms at the Amari come with bathtubs, and the size of the bathroom at the Family Duplex villa is too small, although they do have two separate spaces for the shower and toilet, at opposite ends of the room.
The other room categories in this wing do have bathtubs and a much larger space on the whole, including private balconies, but are located a little further off from the beach. Uncluttered spaces with oval-shaped settees and wooden flooring offer a choice of double or twin beds here.
The Beach wing at Amari Palm Reef has only 28-rooms, eight of which are Ocean View and Junior suites, close to the pool. The latter is a large square room with wooden flooring and plenty of wardrobe space. The exceedingly comfortable bed most sensibly faces the sea. There is no partition dividing the room, so one enters a small seating area and then steps up to the bed space. The décor is simple; a long headboard behind the bed has a flowing wooden sculpture balanced on it. The patio outside overlooks the pool, so, if you’re planning for a lie-in the next morning, excited children’s chatter will soon put an end to that. A welcome touch is the little platter of canapés that does the daily round along with the turn-down service. The bathroom is quite spacious and has a bathtub, shower and toilet cubicles, and dual washbasin areas.
All room categories come equipped with mini bar, electronic safe, large screen TV, tea/coffee making facility, umbrellas and bathrobes. Two bottles of water are offered on a daily complimentary basis, however, one can always request for extra.
The Amari Palm Reef maintains the patch of beach in front of the hotel and one is relatively undisturbed by hawkers. Continue walking down the beach for about 15-minutes and you come to the Ark Bar hotel, famous among backpackers and other visitors alike, which has quite a lively night scene with food and drinks served on the beach, loud music, fire dancers, et al.
F&B options at the Amari include the breakfast-only Merante; the superb Italian restaurant, Prego; the Bar@C Lounge, open from 8am-1am and the Beach Bar by the pool. Room service is available. Lunch and dinner are served at either of the two bars or else, at Prego, just across the road. The Amari Palm Reef updates its F&B promotions on a daily basis during season; plenty of Happy Hour concepts and all promotions are very clearly marked and placed at several strategic points around the hotel.
As mentioned, Prego is located outside the hotel and just adjacent to the Garden wing. This restaurant, with Italian chef Marco Boscaini at the helm, has been doing phenomenally well since its inception ten years ago. The place is quite packed with walk-in guests even on weekdays, and it is advisable to make reservations in advance. Chef Marco hails from Milan and the food he dishes up puts you instantly in mind of Italian fine dining at its best. He also has some of his grandma’s traditional recipes on the menu. I let him do the choosing for me, and I was served with lobster salad to begin with, followed by ravioli stuffed with crab in a tomato and pesto sauce and then grilled rock lobster with spaghetti tossed in garlic and chilli on the side, and, to round off this repast, a chocolate hazelnut mousse. The main course deserves an encore; the spaghetti was superbly al dente and even tastier than the lobster!
Recreational amenities at the Amari Palm Reef include a small fitness centre with basic equipment, the two swimming pools with kids pools as well, and the Breeze Spa. The spa has six couple treatment rooms – indoor as well as outdoor – and its signature treatments are the mood massages such as the Dreamy, Serene, Invigorated, Rejuvenated and Energised. A tailor and PADI dive shop is also located on the premises but the hotel has no direct contact with either. The tour desk in the lobby is on contract with the Amari and offers nearby sightseeing options, including speedboat tickets to the Full Moon party on Koh Phangan.
Housekeeping staff is cheerful, while front office and poolside F&B tends to be a bit erratic; the latter can be quite voluble at times. The Prego staff is exceedingly well trained; no doubt it helps to have chef Marco’s beady eye trained on them throughout the evening!
Conference facilities are fairly limited at the moment, and can accommodate between 30-80 pax. However, there is a major renovation ahead planned for the Amari Palm Reef and the hotel will be closing for a year come April 2015. While the essential Thai design will be preserved, all the fitments will be modern, including essential back-of-the-house equipment such as boilers and chillers. The extensive overhaul will include adding on room inventory; refurbishing current rooms; creating a new F&B outlet; relocating the spa from its current space and positioning it more to the front of the hotel, and adding on convention facilities. The plans also cover a pool bar for the swimming pool in the Garden wing. The present Fitness Centre will become a Kids Club and a much larger gym will be in place post the renovations.
Sightseeing on Samui includes the elephant trek to the waterfalls or the Big Buddha statue at Bangrak. Bophut and Maenam beaches are much quieter, also, the sand is gritty as compared to Chaweng or Lamai; the latter is extremely picturesque and home to the Grandmother and Grandfather natural rock formations and is well worth a visit. Water sports are available at most of the beaches. The best way to get around would be to hire a motorcycle as taxis are too expensive and songtaews do not offer frequent service to the other beaches; do note that Samui is accident-prone on account of its many hairpin bends, especially on the way from Chaweng to Lamai. The spectacular island of Koh Phangan, famous for its Full Moon party, is 45-minutes away from Samui by speedboat.
To get to Koh Samui, you can fly into the island directly however, bear in mind that Bangkok Airways owns the airport and hence holds the monopoly, although there are some THAI Airways flights too flying in now. Ticket costs are therefore at a premium. Another option by air is to fly into Surat Thani from Bangkok (about 70-minutes) with Air Asia or NokAir and then take a bus/ferry combination ticket for THB 350; multiple options available at the airport. You could also do the overnight train from Bangkok to Surat Thani (roughly THB 765 but there are choices here too such as 1st, 2nd and 3rd class, fan or air conditioned, upper or lower berth) and then the bus/ferry combo at THB 250. The trains are safe and comfortable. From Surat Thani’s Donsak pier to Koh Samui’s Nathon Pier it is about two hours, after which you can take a taxi or songtaew to whichever beach you’ve decided to stay on.
Amari Palm Reef Koh Samui
TEL: +66 77300306
FAX: +66 77300311